It’s not a crocheted bag then…

‘The Lantern Keeper’

Well Hello!
I’m so glad you dropped by to visit me today, you see, I have something nice to share with you, of both the painty~arty kind (as you will no doubt have already sussed from the picture above) and something that resembles a woolly kind of Ta~Dah moment.

But first, about this painting.
At this point you may well be wondering, yes but where is the other one, the one with the turquoise blue sea, the stripy jug of big daisies, the red and white polka dot cup…?
Ah yes. That one.

My friends, that particular painting and I have had another altercation. It is a relationship that will run its course until the picture is finished, but its a bit like getting involved with someone who’s the wrong star sign. I keep falling out of love with it, and then back in again – and you know me, I don’t like to rush things and ruin them, so me and the Painting have agreed on a temporary separation, and we will meet up again once I have got over feeling like I would like to hurl it out of the window.

So, I have been busy on an illustrative painting called ‘The Lantern Keeper.’ The idea came to me the other day as I was imagining a little chap of the forest (as you do), who went around in the starry twilight making sure all of God’s creatures were safe and secure in their cosy little homes and beds…and this painting emerged, the Lantern Keeper carefully carrying a small blue butterfly back to its folks in the meadow…

…and this is a line and wash drawing I did of him ~ listening intently there to a little songbird up in the branches of a tree.

It does feel like some time since I did any illustrative work like this. I know you might think that most of my work is illustrative (and yes, I suppose it is as its all very much from my imagination) but my recent paintings have been landscapes of the seaside and boaty kind.

Painting this was lovely, I so enjoy character work and now my Little Egg is in her nursery sessions, it looks like my horizon is going to be dotted with extra hours here and there to invest in more art! Hurrah!! Yes, I’m delighted, but I cannot lie ~ Little Egg doesn’t like nursery. No. Not a jot. Suffice to say, it is an emotional and often difficult time and I know many of you Mum’s reading this will know exactly what I’m on about. Still, we are making slow progress, and that in itself is a blessing.


What was I saying before about a woolly sort of ‘Ta-Dah’ moment…hee hee?!!
Ah yes. Well, remember those Popcorn Flower Grannies I made some time back? Yes? Good.
Do you remember how I was going to make them into a bag? Yes?

Well I didn’t.

Isn’t that just like me? I must confess, I had a couple of really quite nice ideas for a bag, but on Saturday I went to York and somehow a new flowery velvet CK messenger bag came home with me (how that happened I have no idea) so I decided to put Plan B into action with those little squares the other night, and look what I made instead!

Ladies (and Gentlemen, if indeed there are any of you reading this) ~ The Popcorn Flower Granny Cushion!!

I confess, I am utterly in love with it.
I also crocheted a nice little buttony edge onto it, as well as using a huge granny square I’d made ages ago to make the back part of the cushion.

Would you like to see it with all its brothers and sisters?

Ahhh, alright then 😀

Of course there is only room for one person to sit down on our sofa now, but hey-ho! Can you see my Rainbow Ripple on there too? It’s not finished yet (not far to go with it) but I couldn’t resist road testing it with all the other cushions and blankets for this picture. I admit I went ever so slightly delirious at all the colourful hooky goodness in front of me just then! I had to sit down! And it suddenly popped into my head as I sat amongst all that crochet that I’d promised to show you how to join those colourful squares. Well, I will endeavour to do a wee tutorial for you in the next few weeks, so that you can make your own bags, cushions and blankets from your Popcorn Grannies.

Would that be fun?
I have to say here and now in case any of you are wondering about a pattern for that cushion, is that I didn’t really make one. It was a bit like the bolster in that it kind of happened of its own accord, although I could probably create a pattern if enough of you were interested, at least a rough guide to making your very own Popcorn Cushion.

So, with that, I will get on with some more drawing.
I have to say very quietly at this point that I am going to be launching some limited edition hand illustrated Christmas Cards very soon (see how I whispered that so you wouldn’t get cross with me for saying it in September?). They will be up for grabs first to my dear Mailing List subscribers ~ that is one of the nice treats that those dear souls get from signing up you see, so if you would like to be amongst the first to see them and indeed get your hands on them, why not sign up for my little e-newsletter here?!

I hope you all have warm weekends, sprinkled with crisp autumn walks and cosy moments!

Much love
Julia x x x

A New Love Affair

Hello dear souls.

I’m here at last, and I’m a day late blogging (which means I’m a day late with my 100th Post Celebration Draw ~ sorry about that!) but it has been a whirlwind week involving a Very Important 3rd Birthday for a Little Someone amongst other things!
First of all though, I would like to share some of my photographs with you from our trip last weekend…

I never expected to be so totally smitten by a place…I never expected such a huge expanse of blue sky to greet me and an amazing sense of space. I never believed that beaches could be this white on the east coast, I never realised such a beautiful corner of England existed until last weekend when we journeyed north to Northumberland.

My dear friends, a new love affair has begun!

Beyond the sea grasses lay miles of soft white sand, and crystal clear seas which turned gently turquoise and then denim blue upon the horizon. Surely places like this are only found on foreign shores…?

Cheerful bunting was hung across the lane that wound its way down to the harbour at Seahouses.

And we were all quite in love with the soft calls of the beautiful eider ducks..

There were far too many beautiful views, I love looking at the beach through the fronds of dusty green sea grass…a magical descent to the beach below through warm sand dunes…

…and from the sandy path that ran along the low cliffs, we could see the Farne Islands clustered in that crystal clear water, the sun shone all day long and we felt so happy to be in this beautiful place…

Our travels took us to Alnmouth, where huge blousy red poppies grew in abundance by the estuary.

I was completely and utterly blown away by the brilliance and size of these wild flowers – and I thought, if I tried to paint this scene with the vivid blue sky and the scarlet petals it would look too much somehow. Only nature can carry off this sort of beauty I think!

Come evening, molten sunsets bathed everything in a rose gold glow…

…it’s 9:30pm here, but Someone Small cares nothing about the time…there’s always time for a paddle at the seaside!

I won’t forget those long days in the fresh air and the sun which was hot from early morning when we first opened the door of our caravan at just turned seven o’clock. There’s nothing quite like scent of wild flowers, grass and salt breezes as you sip a good cup of coffee and know that a whole new day lies ahead, full of wanderings and discoveries.

Now, I have always had a deep fondness for Cornwall and Devon, having holidayed and lived there over the years, but I’m starting to think those places may just have a teeny weeny bit of competition! I’m looking forward to going back to Northumberland some day not so far off, there is much more to see and do and three days, although heavenly, just weren’t long enough!

But anyway…I think an important matter needs to be sorted out!!

Who, you may be wondering, is the winner of the 100th Post Draw?

Well my dear friends, I carefully checked and counted up the comments that you all kindly left for me (and they were all so very lovely, thank you all so much for taking the time to write them) and then I found me a Random Number Generator…

The number it drew for me was…..23!

And the winner of the little Cath Kidston address book, and two of my art print cards is
Well done! And thank you to everyone else who took part 😀

So, at the beginning of this post I mentioned a 3rd Birthday, which is one of the reasons that I’m a day late with my draw – you see we didn’t get back until late on Monday evening, and Tuesday was spent in a whirlwind of shopping and last minute present buying (and wrapping) not to mention cake baking at 8:30pm that same evening…whew!! Im weary again just thinking about it!! Wednesday was our Little One’s birthday and she had a lovely day, although how she got to be 3 so fast is beyond me!

We had a little tea party for her, and here is a picture of the Smartie Cake she requested (I used the vanilla sponge recipe from ‘Cupcakes from the Primrose Hill Bakery and it’s a really good one).

Needless to say, yesterday was spent catching up with chores and the like (how come there is always so much washing after only 3 days away??) and before I knew it, it was early evening.

Ah well, better late than never eh?!

Before I go…(are you still with me?), I wanted to share an illustration piece that I’ve just finished for my portfolio.

I thought I’d continue with my animal theme, hence the bear. I painted this slightly different to how I usually do, in that I used my acrylic paint very thinly and in lots of layers. It built up gradually and I think it gives a nice depth, which I finished off with some soft crayon here and there.

Whilst on the subject of paintings etc, I’m going to be sharing some new cards with you soon. They are going to be hand illustrated, so therefore very unique and special, and I’ll be posting them here for you to see very soon.

Just before I go, I’d like to welcome some new followers, and to say once again Thank You Very Much for visiting my blog, for your kindness and support ~ it means such a lot and I do enjoy reading your little messages!

Anyway, I’m off now, I don’t know about you but after this I need a nice cuppa!! 😀

See you all again soon~
(I’ll be catching up properly with your blogs now life has settled back into a slightly more gentle pace again!!)

Much love
Happy Bank Holiday to you!

Julia x

Rainbow Days

Hello 🙂

There is rather an exciting ‘something’ happening in my crochet bag. My gorgeous new wool supply is rapidly becoming a gorgeous Rainbow Ripple blanket (henceforth known as RR). Ive even splurged on a couple of extra colours, a lighter shade of green to balance out the darker olive shade (I wasn’t too happy with it sitting on its own in such a dark manner!), and a bright blue. These will be added to the ripply layers that follow.

Oh my goodness, its so nice to crochet ripples though, after many moons of creating grannies that needed 4 colours or more its a pleasure to glide up and down these little ripply hills with no need for changing wool shade every few minutes. Which makes it quite a fast thing to do, and ulitmately very relaxing (although you must stay on the ball with your counting, several times Ive cocked up and had to undo a whole row!!)

We are really feeling spring here in fits and starts now – starting to notice that the evenings are lighter for just a little longer which is heaven, and then there is an occasional ‘feel’ in the air when the sun shines that makes you suddenley very happy and heart skippy. The irises in my green pot outside the back door have produced their first beautiful flower, and Im called to filling jam jars and the like with outrageously bright tulips!

I can’t choose a favourite flower as I like so many, but these do bring a much needed shot of colour into the house after such a long, cold and dreary winter. Just the tonic I think!

Another necessary tonic in our home is of course, chocolate. Its a staple food here as much as bread and potatoes are!! And how tempting are the shops right now with their shimmering pink and red foil wrapped delights, all dolled up for Valentine’s Day! I couldn’t help myself, two little bags of caramel hearts found their way home with me the other day, I was completely seduced by them!!

I think with the days getting gradually longer, and a chat with a friend yesterday about holidays it was only a matter of time before I got seriously thinking about where we might take ourselves this year. Serendipitously, my copy of Coast magazine appeared with the post (a timely visual treat) and a visit to the library to return the Little One’s book stash resulted in me finding the Time Out book of the Seaside, now thats a nice book to get your hands on – its crammed full of all the best beaches in the UK and the pictures and descriptions are fantastic! Needless to say I am now spoilt for choice, the South West beckons, yet so does the Norfolk coast, the Gower and Northumberland…Scotland looks as wild and as beautiful as the Caribbean in some photographs and the Isle of Wight conjures up some wonderful nostalgia from the time we lived there for a couple of months one hot and splendid summer…

Anyway, as I was flicking through Coast, my eye caught sight of this photograph…spot the crocheted granny blanket in the corner! I love this little room, leading out onto a tiny garden!

Meanwhile, on the art front…

Oh goodness, time is slipping away from me at the speed of sound these days. I am making slow progress at the moment with my painting, although the character is ready in all her guises in my sketchbook. Ive done a couple of paintings of naughty Mo so far, this one is almost finished and the minx is clearly running away from some grave misdeed judging by the crafty look on her face! I just need to tweak a few bits, add a bit more depth and detail here and there and the background needs playing about with too. But you can get the gist of her now I think.

This weekend Ive got a few hours grace to work on these properly, so the images will be all packaged up and heading South in a few days. It’s the Bologna Book Fair in March too, so Ive also got to make a mini portfolio of my illustrations to send to the Agency so they can take some examples of my work with them when they go. I wish I could make myself small enough to travel with them!! 😀

Anyway, Im off to visit a few of your blogs now – cup of tea on the table and a nice chocolate brownie baked by me and the Little Miss! Thank you to all of you who have stopped by, its always lovely to see you! Do leave me a little note if you like and I’ll make sure I pop by your blog to say hello!

Have a magical weekend, filled with sparkling surprises and love!

Julia x

Soul Longings

It seems like months since we last saw grass, greenery and tiny peeping new shoots in the garden…and it seems absolutely ages ago since we were mooching about in crocs and summer dresses, sand between our toes, walking in shallow aquamarine waves…

The longing for the summer is getting stronger, so I made a mosaic of some of my favourite photographs which are all things South West, summer and beach to cheer myself up.

Isn’t it lovely?

Just looking at it makes me feel happy…and its easy to ignore the rather intense freezing fog which has pervaded every nook and cranny of our valley this evening when Im looking at those pictures.

As I was in the process of uploading my pics to the magical mosaic maker, I was browsing a few blogs and discovered that Diane over at Heartshaped was having similar coastal longings and had posted the most beautiful photograph of Porthmeor at sunset…I think this time of year can be especially hard, so I love that fellow bloggers are sharing their sunniest, most emotive pictures here to lift the gloom that January sometimes brings.

Meanwhile, in the art corner…

…work is a-happening. Oh yes, after a faithful pledge at New Year to devote more time to my art in 2010, I have so far managed to do this and Im currently engrossed in a new illustration piece that Im very happy about. Its not quite finished, but if you take a peek in the photograph below, you might just be able to see it!

Can you make it out? I’ll post a proper picture of it sometime next week when its all finished 🙂

Im feeling very inspired at the moment, plenty of ideas swirling around in the old grey matter – Ive shelved the sewing stuff for the time being in favour of the painting, and will perhaps make bits and bobs along the way. Id discovered of late that I was perhaps pulling myself in too many directions, and whilst I cannot deny that I love crocheting and sewing and making etc, Im not going to let them become pressures that overwhelm and bring headaches. I have been reading my business books, (some which are proving to be more useful than others), have taken part in some of the exercises and answered some thought provoking questions – and you know, its really rather good to have someone ask you this stuff. It makes you think. And it made me think about direction and goals, and what I want to achieve, what is important to me and what is not quite so important…

and so I know now, without a shadow of a doubt that my first love is my painting, that I couldn’t live without it…and perhaps my second is crochet as its a wonderfully meditative way to switch off from the world. Sewing and felting etc all come after that, and by acknowledging this, its been a bit like a permission slip to ease up on myself, not put so much pressure upon little old me to make and do in every single medium.

And that feels very, very good. 🙂

Its story time now for a certain Little Someone, so I shall bid you all a fond goodnight, and look forward to browsing your blogs over the coming weekend – speaking of which, we are hoping (fingers crossed the Woodhead or Snake passes are open again in time) to amble across to Salford on Sunday, to The Lowry where there is a fabulous exhibition on til the 31st January called ‘The Sea’
featuring work by Lowry and Maggi Hambling (the wonderful artist responsible for the big Scallop Shell on the beach at Aldeburgh, Suffolk).

Whatever you do, keep warm, remember each day is lighter a little longer…and the snow seems to be melting, in Yorkshire at least!

Much love
Julia x x x

Cottage Industry

Little Red Riding Hood Illustration
I have been very busy again this week. Something registered in the far off reaches of my creative mind a couple of days ago, that things needed to be made and stock needed to be replenished for the Craft Candy ‘Candy Cane Christmas Fair’ which is fast approaching…seems I have done it again, left it all ’til the last moment, and whilst you may think that 3 or 4 weeks is ample time to make and do, then I have to tell you that for me it is sailing far too close to the edge. I like to make crocheted things, sewn things as well as printy/arty things and these all take time, and time is what I generally have not got oodles of, due to the fact that as a Mummy, I spend most of my time entertaining the Little Daughter with baking, play dates, library trips and the like.

Not that Im complaining, I love her to bits and that side of my life is what makes my creative life so enriched.

So it seems my dining room is being turned into a small production room where Christmas cards are printed, boxes of cards are put together, pictures are painted or stitched and sewn and finally, when my bottom can no longer endure the hard wooden chairs I retreat to the living room and the comfort of the squishy sofa to dig out the crochet bag and create little one-off decorations….want a peep? Of course you do!

This little fellow is quite jolly, with his festive hat and scarf, finished with a wooden bead and a hanging cord (which I think you can just make out by my fore finger) – he’s the only one though – my theme this year is to create completely unique decorations so once they have gone there are no more! It means its alot of fun too, coming up with lots of individual designs and hopefully, my lovely customers, should they be tempted to purchase, will be going home with not only a cute little handmade dec, but a warm fuzzy feeling that theirs is the only one in the world!! 🙂

Inspired by a post on Attic24 lately, I decided to make a little bird to add to my decoration stash. I have a thing for birds (I love drawing them with fat little bodies), and last night using a circular crocheted template (you can see Lucy’s pattern for more info) I came up with this little chap. His eyes are made with sequins and swarovski crystals which should capture the glow of the fairy lights and twinkle beautifully! He hangs from a crocheted cord that has been adorned with two colourful wooden beads.

So, all this takes place as the nights draw in and the rain hammers on the windows which makes me feel jolly glad to be tucked up indoors with my art and crafts. But its not all work, oh no!! Not that I actually feel that it is work you understand, anything that I make or paint is the nicest thing to be doing and very rarely a chore – but you know what I mean in that sometimes we have to tool down and get outdoors!
Last night was Bonfire Night (officially) and there were plenty of us who gathered for the annual spectacular in my Mum’s village. Fortunately, across the road from the field where the bonfire and fireworks are held is a nice little country pub with a great area for viewing not only that display, but many more all over the rest of Sheffield and beyond to the east! We stood clasping our warming beverages, gasping in delight as posies of glittering light exploded against a dark sky – it never ceases to amaze the child in me and this year was especially nice as our Little girl, who is now 2 was absolutely enraptured with it all and didn’t cry not once, not even when the very Loud and Spluttery fireworks went off – no, she applauded and shreiked with delight! Fabulous child 🙂
Bonfire night wouldn’t be the same without special tasty things to eat now would it? I made a batch of flapjack, adding a handful of roughly chopped brazil nuts and about 100g of milk chocolate chunks, squashing it gently into the top of the flapjack mixture. Its very nice.
Flapjack, to me, is one of those flavours of autumn – like bangers and mash, roast onions, tart tatin…I love those syrupy, smoky, dense flavours that seem to appear in seasonal recipies at this time of year. It makes me feel decidedly cosy!!

Well, I had better press on! I have the house to myself this afternoon as the Little One is being entertained by Nannie and Grandad and I have not a moment to waste!! Another decoration is beckoning and there is much to do before I feel satisfied with my stash!

I hope you all have cheerful weekends, for us its a trip to a village Christmas Fair – yes, I know its early but you never know what lovely things you might find at these places and I love being able to give someone special a gorgeous handmade something.

See you again soon,

Love J xxx

Fitting it all in

‘Little Red, kite flying’

You know the trouble with being a creative person is that there is always something else you want to be doing. Whilst working on my most recent piece; ‘Well & Joy’ I found my mind drifting towards crochet projects after purchasing some beautiful hand made ceramic buttons from this lovely lady at Incy Wincy Stitches with which to adorn some crocheted corsages!

Anyway, before I drift off into a reverie of buttons, cashmerino wool and the like, I felt I had to share my illustration piece with you, and in all its completed glory, here it is!! You can see a bigger version here.


‘Well & Joy – the finished piece’
Id love to hear any comments you might have about my new work!

So, as is quite usual for me, I now have several projects on the go at once. There are neither enough hours in a day or enough days in a week to get everything done, but its ok. Its actually the delicious thoughts of creating all these lovely things that make the journey of life worth travelling. Corsages, illustration work, childrens art workshops, hand crafted cards…its all these little bursts of inspiration that make the duller parts glow. To overcome the frustration of perhaps bursting at the seams with so many things I want to do (and future projects include making a book bag with some gorgeous Amy Butler fabric and a blind for our kitchen) I have to make notes of my ideas whilst they’re fresh in my head, maybe scrapbook some pictures from magazines etc too.
With the ideas and thoughts safely down in the art journal, I can happily return to wiping small jammy hands, laundry and other dismal sounding chores.
Its all about sparkling from the inside.